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Presidential candidates take on xenophobia in Finland

Thursday, 19 January 2012
Most Finnish presidential candidates agree that xenophobia is a growing problem in Finland. However, concrete ideas to combat racism are still few and far between. Here is a look at what the candidates recently said on the issue.

Left Alliance candidate Paavo Arhinmäki said his opinion on xenophobia in Finland stems from personal experience.
“I’ve done political work in the suburbs for the past ten years. Two or three years ago there was more hate speech which nobody would have accepted five years ago.”
During a few of the presidential debates other candidates criticised Finns Party candidate Timo Soini for not distancing himself from party colleagues James Hirvisaaris’ and Jussi Halla-Ahos’ controversial statements in the past.
“I'm not a babysitter, but if it goes too far in our party ... I think we are the only party that has punished its members,” Soini said.


SDP's Paavo Lipponen told YLE's Swedish-language news that he would like to counter the negative attitudes towards the Swedish language in Finland.
“An important reason why I decided to run for [president] was that so many Finns came and said that you get attacked if you speak Swedish in everyday life,” Lipponen said.
The Greens' candidate Pekka Haavisto said he wants to stop hate speech:
“There is real racism in Finland. We must be very tough on those opinions and respond every time,” he said.

However, Christian Democrat candidate Sari Essayah said she does not believe that racism is on the rise, but that she is willing to support programmes that fight racism in schools.
“The president can influence public opinion. You have to intervene effectively in cases like this, by speaking against this kind of behavior,” Centre party candidate Paavo Väyrynen said.
The National Coalition Party's Sauli Niinistö said: “there are many people -- especially those involved in social media -- who do not have a clue about human dignity.”
This article is published on YLE, the Finnish broadcaster.

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